GLEN GRAY: Glen Gray Knoblauch was a jazz saxophonist and leader of the Casa Loma Orchestra.
When he was 13 years old, Gray organized a group known as Spike's Jazz Band. He is said to have joined the army at 17 and two years later he was living at home with his family. He was employed as a bill clerk for the railroad.
In 1927, his Orange Blossoms Band was renamed the Casa Loma Orchestra, after Casa Loma in Toronto, where the band played for eight months. He collaborated with jazz musician Jean Goldkette and with trumpeter/arranger Salvador Camarata.
In the early 1930s, the Casa Loma Orchestra was one of the bands that helped pave the way for the popularity of big band swing, especially with the college age crowd, by wowing audiences at Yale, Dartmouth and other Ivy League schools. It is said to have been the first white big band with a deliberate Jazz policy. Although they played in a stiff and precise style, the Casa Loma Orchestra helped spread the concept of big band jazz to a generation of young white kids who were still largely unaware of the great black jazz orchestras.
Ill health forced Glen to retire from touring in 1950. In 1956 he went back into the studio to record some LPs which recreated the sounds of the big band era.
OZZIE AND HARRIET NELSON: In the early 1930s, a booking at the Glen Island Casino landed Ozzie Nelson's orchestra national network radio exposure. After three years together with the orchestra, Ozzie and Harriet signed to appear regularly on The Baker's Broadcast (1933-1938), hosted first by Joe Penner, then by Robert L. Ripley and finally by cartoonist Feg Murray.
The couple married on October 8, 1935 during this series run, and they realised working together in radio would keep them together better than continuing their musical careers might have done.
The Nelsons joined the cast of The Red Skelton Show in 1941, with Ozzie and Harriet also providing much of the show's music and the couple staying with that NBC series for three years. They also built their radio experience by doing guest shots (together and individually) on top radio shows, from comedies such as The Fred Allen Show to (perhaps unusually) the mystery titan "Suspense."
Ozzie Nelson was prompted to create his own family situation comedy and "The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet" launched on CBS on October 8, 1944 (their 9th wedding anniversary). This show eventually moved to television, and even helped launch their son Ricky Nelson as a rock and roll star.
HARRIET HILLIARD: Harriet Nelson (née Hilliard) was an American singer and actress. Even more confusing, Harriet Nelson was born Peggy Lou Snyder in Des Moines, Iowa on July 18, 1909, to Roy Hilliard Snyder and Hazel Dell McNutt.
By 1932, she performed in vaudeville when she met saxophone-playing Ozzie Nelson and was hired as vocalist for his orchestra. They married three years later and with him and their children, Eric (or Ricky) Nelson and David Nelson, she starred in the highly popular radio and television series The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet between 1944 and 1966. It is for that TV series which she is best known, despite the movies and singing career.